“Zika fever: truths and half-truths” at Knutsford SciBar

News article 6 Sep 2016

This week LSTM’s Dr Lee Haines, a postdoctoral researcher in the Vector Biology Department, spoke at the Knutsford SciBar held at the Knutsford Sports Club.

Her informative talk entitled “Zika fever: truths and half-truths” was an update on the current Zika virus outbreak in the Americas.  Almost 50 SciBar members attended her talk and actively participated in many stimulating discussions. Her talk began by introducing how media bias has impacted the understanding of Zika virus disease, and then explored the different routes of transmission to humans, the epidemiology of the current outbreak, clinical symptoms and the issues surrounding diagnostics and surveillance of those infected with the virus.  She went on to describe the evidence backing the association between Zika infection and microcephaly in Brazil and contrasted this to reports from Colombia.  She further described the many other neurological abnormalities now reported in babies and adults (like Guillain Barré Syndrome (GBS) and acute disseminated encephalomyelitis (ADEM)) now strongly linked to Zika.

When Dr Haines demonstrated the life cycle of the Aedes mosquito using live mosquitoes, pupae and larvae (kindly supplied by LITE), the audience was mesmerized as several did not recognize these larvae as mosquito offspring.  Her presentation further explained the current strategies for controlling the mosquito populations, and called into question the efficacy of vector control strategies such as fogging, source reduction and the addition of larvicide into drinking water. Dr Haines also explained some of issues and conspiracy theories surrounding the spread of Zika and highlighted some new findings regarding another potential Zika vector (Culex mosquito) and person-to-person transmission.  She finished her talk by summarising the prospects for a Zika vaccine and outlining the risks Zika poses on society.

Dr Haines commented: “What an amazing night at Knutsford SciBar. It was great that so many people came to hear my talk and stayed to listen even though the bar was not open!  They were a completely engaged and lovely audience. I believe I managed to quell some fears about Zika virus disease by increasing the understanding of this scientifically fascinating disease”.  Lee graciously thanks Marion Morris, Jessica Thomson and Darren Baker from LITE for providing the fantastic mosquito exhibits that were used during her talk.

If anyone is interested in taking part in similar public engagement activities, please contact Public Engagement Manager Elli Wright.